Wyoming Range Raffle
Support this great ongoing project. Please read below for information on the project.
Back in 2012 the Wyoming Game and Fish budgets were cut, not allowing anymore funding for this project. The Muley Fanatic Foundation had a conversation with Dr. Monteith and committed $170,000 during that time so the project could continue. This project may not exist or be where it is at without the MFF commitment, now look at it.
Dr. Kevin Monteith’s Project Update:
The overall goal of our continued work in the Wyoming Range will be to build on our understanding of nutritional and population ecology of this herd to answer a suite of questions that can only be addressed using long-term and continuous data. The mule deer of the Wyoming Range are one of the most cherished populations of wildlife in western North America, and we seek to gain a better understanding of how this population is responding to an increasingly changing environment, while simultaneously answering complex questions critical to advancing our understanding of this species that have long eluded ecologists. By following individuals from birth throughout their life, we can begin to better understand the behavioral and physiological adaptations these animals possess to persist in such a stochastic landscape, and identify what factors may play crucial roles on long-term population dynamics. Our work has begun to identify the effects of a severe winter on this population of mule deer, and we are now equipped to identify the severity and longevity of carryover effects on a population following an extreme winter. Further, we are beginning to understand how migratory patterns are passed from generation to generation, and will soon be able to assess how those patterns differ between males and females, and ultimately what dictates patterns of occupancy by deer across a diverse landscape. Our approach will allow us to continue to elucidate the relative roles of habitat, nutrition, predation, and disease on the regulation of deer in western Wyoming, and to begin to address questions that require long-term data but are crucial to the successful management of mule deer in Wyoming.
In 2015, disease was the leading cause of death for collared fawns
and accounted for 28% of all mortalities. The most prevalent disease,
adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD), is a viral disease that can
cause internal hemorrhaging and pulmonary edema. In 2017, 26% of
fawn mortalities were the result of stillborns. Conversely, in 2018,
only 1 of the 83 fawns collared was stillborn. We are still waiting on
results from the Wyoming State Vet Lab to determine the leading
cause of death for fawns in the summer of 2018.
New for the Project in 2018
Understanding the Ecology of Male Mule Deer in the Wyoming Range
The Wyoming Range mule deer herd holds substantial cultural and economic importance, in part, because of the opportunities it provides for hunters from both Wyoming and throughout the West to harvest male deer, and for some, to harvest large males. Despite the importance of male mule deer in the Wyoming Range to both the public and economy, we still lack fundamental understandings of much of the ecology of males (i.e., migratory behaviors, vulnerability to harvest, dispersal from natal home ranges), and thus, many questions arise as to how season dates should be established, how male deer respond to harvest pressure, and whether males are being recruited into older age segments. Or for example, even more basic questions associated with how population processes are stocking high-elevation basins with male deer remains largely unknown.
Beginning in the autumn of 2018, we began to collar male mule deer as part of the Wyoming Range Mule Deer project, and hope to continue these efforts over the next three years. The Wyoming Range Mule Deer project has begun to disentangle many of the factors that may regulate mule deer herds in Wyoming, but there is still a critical gap in understanding the ecology of this herd. Despite the fact that males are often the segment of the population most valued by the public, there exists little information on how their ecology differs from females, and thus, how males may behave or respond differently from females to regulating or limiting factors. Indeed, harvest of females has been restricted almost completely in the Wyoming Range since 1993 and thus, almost all harvest-related opportunity in the population is provided by the male segment. The Wyoming Range herd is universally considered by many as one of the premier herds for hunting large mule
deer in North America. Accordingly, most conversations associated with management of the Wyoming Range herd, and many others for that matter, is focused around harvest of males. Outside of antler morphology characteristics and age specific data that is collected in the field by managers subsequent to harvest, little information is available that contributes to the management of the male cohort. In fact, other than posthunt male:female ratios, there are no other long-term, consistently obtained or reliable data sets that describe the annual population dynamic, or effects of management action on the 1+-year old cohort of males. Consequently, we generally lack empirical information to help inform discussions as to management of males. This discussion occurs at a time when segments of the hunting public are asking for a dichotomous, and inherently conflicting, set of management actions be implemented that dramatically restricts hunting of males, as well as providing increased opportunity to harvest trophy class males during the migratory period (i.e., longer hunting seasons) or when males arrive on winter ranges.
Existing evidence and theory indicates that male ungulates differ markedly in their behavior, nutritional dynamics, and growth, and as a consequence, can exhibit demographics divergent to that of females. It has been recommended that male ungulates be considered as essentially a different species compared with females, because of their striking differences in life history. Although they represent a flexible resource within populations because harvest of males plays little role in affecting population dynamics for polygynous ungulates, increasing interest in maintaining male:female ratios at specified levels and maintaining a specific age structure has become common criteria in management plans. Moreover, heightened discussions on harvest pressure and the topic of limited quota harvest regimes exemplify the need for additional insight into the ecology of male deer.